When word got out that three of the characters from the original Star Wars trilogy were reprising their roles for The Force Awakens, the world pretty much lost their minds. I have a special place in my Jedi heart for Luke and Leia, but it's Han Solo (Harrison Ford) who's always been my favorite. As a boy, I saw him as a sort of superhero. He was a rebel, a loner — someone who played by his own rules. And he had an awesome wookie named Chewbacca as a BFF. Which is why more recently, I was terrified of finding out, does Han Solo die in The Force Awakens? It's a question that'd been looming about when it came to his role in the latest installment of the franchise, and now that I've seen the movie, I have my answer — and (spoiler alert!), I can't say it's a good one.
I am not going to beat around the bush. My beloved Han dies in The Force Awakens. Wow. Even writing that breaks my Ewok heart. Han was always the epitome of space cowboy-cool. I mean, he made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs and practically saved the day in A New Hope. He may have been arrogant, but he had a heart of gold. Millions of other fans cite him as their favorite Star Wars character, and so it's heartbreaking to know what happens. It's not a huge surprise, as while the film's super secret storyline never gave an indication on whether or not Han would met his maker, rumors came out before the movie's release saying that someone would die. Many rightfully thought it would be Han.
There was something deep inside of me that knew Han Solo was going to die —but I didn't want to believe it. I want to say that it was his time to go, but he definitely had more life in him. In a way, his death in the film is like him handing off the baton to the new generation of Star Wars characters, Rey and Finn. It's like he's saying, "It's your turn now, kids." Oh, man.
The scene where it all happens is when Han confronts Kylo Ren, whose real name is Ben and, as revealed earlier in the movie, is Han Solo and Leia's son. Luke had tried to train Ben to be a Jedi, but unfortunately, things didn't go as planned, and he was seduced by the Dark Side, where he turned into Kylo Ren (it's a lot to take in). Han and Leia, who are separated, talk about Ben and how they feel they've failed as parents, but Leia feels that there is still good in Kylo Ren — and that's why Han confronts him (a la Luke vs. Vader, except with no lightsabers) in one of the best scenes in the movie.
As Chewbacca, Finn, and Rey look on, Han tries to convince Kylo Ren that Supreme Leader Snoke is just using his power. Han says once he gets what he wants, he'll kill Kylo — and this is where Adam Driver acts the hell out of the role. With his mask removed, Kylo is in tears as Han talks him down. Han says, "come home." (That's when I felt the many tears being held back in the audience — including my own.) Kylo is torn. You see he is conflicted. He wants to come back with his parents, but the Dark Side has got him whooped. He can't help but be bad, but in that moment, he fights it and surrenders his tri-tipped lightsaber to his father. He wants to be good again. You think all is well, and then in an instant the Dark Side takes over Kylo and he turns evil again. And that's when he uses his lightsaber to stab Han Solo. This is the moment when I gasped and put my hand to my chest and mouthed the words, "Oh my Sith Lord!"
As Han falls to his death, Rey yells "Nooooooo!", Chewbacca lets out a sorrowful roar, and the movie cuts to Leia, who felt his death from afar. I looked around the audience and saw hands covering mouths in disbelief. At that moment I realized three things: 1.) Kylo Ren is pure evil and needs to be destroyed. 2.) Adam Driver is one helluva actor and 3.) OMG. Han Solo is really dead — but at least he didn't go out like a punk.
Part of me is upset about this, but another part of me feels that it is a necessary evil to raise the stakes. It invests the audience even more. In the case of The Force Awakens, Han's death is right up there with the passings of iconic characters like Spock in Star Trek. Come to think of it, Han is the Obi-Wan of The Force Awakens. They both died while trying to save others — except Obi-Wan voluntarily died. Still, they were both heroic deaths.
Movies and shows killing off favorite characters seems to be more common than ever — just look at Game of Thrones. That show thrived off of killing off Ed Stark in the first season and continued its massacre with "The Red Wedding" and most recently, the demise of Jon Snow. The same thing goes for The Walking Dead, and Joss Whedon loves doing it with his projects. Remember Tara and Anya in Buffy? Hell, he even killed off Buffy's mom. On the big screen, he did away with Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron. And of course, Star Wars director J.J. Abrams had caused his own share of heartbreaking deaths on shows like Lost.
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The character of Han Solo will be missed. I'll be wearing my Han Solo vest in memory of him for the next couple of weeks. However, he still lives on the original trilogy... and in the forthcoming standalone Han Solo prequel coming in 2018.